Archive for March, 2010

Cake decorating classes, advanced, part 1

By
March 15th, 2010



Many of us signed up for the series of classes for this moment: the day we learn to work with fondant frosting for the cakes. It's an exciting session.

New classroom!

New classroom!

I should back up and explain that the teachers, with all their integrity and love of the craft, insist on teaching the first three courses as a chronological series. You must take the basic and intermediate classes before you get to learn the advanced techniques of fondant.

"Using frosting is a basic skill that all bakers should know," explains Lori Tamashiro.

"That's right," adds co-teacher Lani Sonan. "Some top bakers on those Food Network challenges don't know how to ice. And I've seen some of them fail for their lack of icing skills. We want our students to be prepared."

I admit, I begrudgingly signed up for the first two classes, since it was a prerequisite for this course. I'm a busy mom and I like to be efficient with my time. I didn't want to learn stuff that I thought was less interesting and possibly self-explanatory. Frosting, meet piping bag. Hold, squeeze. What more?

But I was wrong. The icing classes were charming and way more fun that I anticipated, and it wasn't a misuse of my time. I got to bond with my friend Joy in a weekly activity, and get to know a bunch of other new friends. You know, we ain't talking only about cakes in there for two and a half hours. Sometimes ribald jokes and men make the list of acceptable conversation.

Me and Joy Kamae Shimizu

Me and Joy Kamae Shimizu

So here we are in advanced class, and in this course we'll work with fondant and gumpaste, because those two trendy elements go hand in hand for making those upscale cakes you often seen at weddings and food channel bake-offs. They both look like Play-Doh, except they're edible. Fondant tastes like marshmallow, but gumpaste tastes like Big Red. I don't advise eating gumpaste.

FONDANT FOR DUMMIES

I have been quite open about being a non-baker before this. I had no idea what fondant really was. Assuming you're at ground zero like I was, I'll tell you the main points of what I just learned.

DSCN9963

1) Fondant and gumpaste is made in a factory, and you buy it. You do not make it. I didn't know that. It is pricey. The small bucket Cake Creations uses costs $80. Therefore, it pained me to feed my cake to my family and see my mom and husband peel off the fondant and discard it as being "too sweet." Eh! That was super expensive!

Gumpaste

Gumpaste

2) Fondant and gumpaste are hard. Gumpaste is harder than fondant. You have to knead both to soften them enough to work with. You then get your rolling pin and roll it out. Both dry extremely fast and get crackly, so you have to work with it immediately.

DSCN9982

3) Work fast! Fondant is that smooth frosting that drapes over the cake. Immediately after rolling it out, cover the cake with it. Do not get distracted by a phone call or a bathroom break. It will dry, crack at the edges instead of shaping around the cake, and you will have to start over. You can also make decorations out of fondant.

4)  If you want to pre-make decorations out of gumpaste, you should let it dry rock-hard in a cool place, for a week or two. (Time estimates are specific to Hawaii humidity.) We learned to make a couple different kinds of bows (like gift wrapping). The teachers are storing our gumpaste bows until the next class, when they should be dry.

My gumpaste bow pieces

My gumpaste bow pieces

This is why you see those TV bakers decorate the cake and then whip out pre-made flowers and such. Those decorations have been dried for weeks prior.

5) Always undercoat the cake with buttercream because other frostings are too soft and watery. The fondant will absorb the water and get tacky.

Very thin coating

Very thin coating

6) If you frost with fondant the night before the event, DO NOT refrigerate the cake. Because we're in Hawaii, the temperature change from cold refrigerator to humid weather will make the fondant sweaty, tacky, and slippery. With that in mind, make sure all the elements in your cake are not going to spoil sitting on the counter overnight. IE, don't use a whipped cream filling.

Prepare to get dirty!

Prepare to get dirty!

Mine

Mine

We all got a five inch, two-layered cake to fool around with, and cookie cutters and crimpers to make fun shapes. We learned to roll ribbon roses, which is what I did for my cake. I was so impressed with everyone's creativity. Fondant makes it pretty easy to look artistic!

Joy's

Joy's

Another student's cake who wants to remain anonymous

Another student's cake who wants to remain anonymous

Unfinished cake, but I was leaving so I just photographed what she had

Unfinished cake, but I was leaving so I just photographed what she had

Sam's unfinished cake

Sam's unfinished cake

Sylvie's unfinished cake

Sylvie's unfinished cake

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Cake decorating classes (intermediate), part 4

By
March 12th, 2010



This final class of the course let us put all our skills to the test by designing a cake in whatever way we wanted. The teachers gave us a quarter sheet of chocolate cake and let us do whatever we wanted to it. It was a good way to give us an idea of how long it really takes to just ice the cake. It took us all at least two and a half hours to finish.

DSCN9898

We used Pastry Pride whipped creme to frost the cake, then most of us used buttercream to ice. Buttercream pipes out smoother. I chose to practice Olivia's birthday cake (yet another design possibility), while most of the students practiced what we learned the previous class on Asian themes.

DSCN9897

Sylvie's cake for her husband

Sylvie's cake for her husband

Joy's Zen theme- bamboo and brook

Joy's Zen theme- bamboo and brook

DSCN9902DSCN9903

Sam

DSCN9904

Lori also taught us how to make 3D figures out of frosting. You use straw and/or cardboard as the foundation to give it shape, and just pipe icing on it till you get the desired shape. Here, Lori piped a dolphin jumping out of the cake.

DSCN9894

Dolphin out of frosting

Dolphin out of frosting

This class concludes the lessons on working with icing. Next class we start working with fondant. I'm glad I learned this, because it's a basic skill.

DSCN9906

Olivia loved her cake. So did everyone else in the house, and some neighbors!

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Cake decorating classes (intermediate), part 3

By
March 10th, 2010



Asian-themed cakes, like for yakudoshi, are one of Cake Creations' biggest sellers. Lori Tamashiro decided to teach us, step by step, how to make her design. It's something she's created over the years after getting repeated requests and then feedback about what people like. She included a lot of Japanese elements in this.

Mine

Mine

To make it, she taught us how to pipe bamboo and a flying crane.

My practice bamboo

My practice bamboo

My sorry looking crane

My sorry looking crane

My crane definitely needs work. Then, we followed her step by step as she piped and airbrushed the quarter sheet cake.

Lastly, we got to work with a new frosting - whipped cream - to see what it's like to use that kind of product. We got to design our own 5 inch yellow cakes to take home. Most people did a variant of the Asian theme she just taught us, but I forgot that I'm a bit of a non-conformist, and I did Hello Kitty. Taking this class brings back memories of how I was in grade school.

DSCN0101

Using an illustration of Hello Kitty, I freehanded the outline in the cake using a little paint brush, and then piped the frosting in. Then I flattened it out and scraped off half the frosting. Then I added the detail.

Um, I forgot to color my frosting before piping it. Reluctantly, I airbrushed part of it, which I found difficult because the air blast started blowing away my frosting (the nose and some letters) when I got too close. If I held the airbrush further away, then it sprayed too many other things on the cake.

OK, live and learn. But, I like the basic design. Extremely girly, but I like it.

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Déjà vu?

By
March 6th, 2010



The sale of the Honolulu Advertiser represents another merger in Hawaii’s journalism community. Once again, I’m affected by a major media merger. I can only shake my head. This makes twice in less than half a year.

Really, people? For real? Can a sista catch a break, or what? Did I bring the bad luck with me?

Danc1

I was a television news anchor laid off in October 2009. My station was the weaker station that bought a stronger station, and then essentially dumped the weaker* news brand, though the word merger was used. (*Weaker in ratings.) Mass layoffs followed.

Dash & Diane open 1

I had just started this blog half a year earlier, and ended up being one of the few laid off newscasters who maintained a mainstream media presence. I am a writer at heart and was aiming to get into print media when I graduated from college, so finally having a newspaper web column was (and is) really cool for me.

I nestled in at the Honolulu Advertiser’s website and got into blogging. I really enjoy it- all of it. I like writing, I like chatting online with the readers whom I “meet,” I like sharing personal stories.

Aug09-BlogOnTv

It’s fun. I have a nice editor, and while I’ve only met a handful of blog colleagues (I blog from home), I think they’re all swell.

Then the news broke that we’ve been bought. I’m seeing shades of my past: weaker news operation buys stronger news operation and then talks of a merger. Layoffs are very possible.

*sigh*

Oh, man. Seriously??! I just went through this just over four months ago. Come onnnn, peeps. Is this the Universe telling me to just go, already? Find something new?

This time, I’m on the stronger team. And I’m still not assuming I’m going to be kept. I’d surely like to be – Hello, message to new owner! - but I don’t take anything for granted. I’ve been around that block.

A DIFFERENT WORLD
The news business I entered in 1993 is not the same world today. I know it’s not just television news. It’s all of journalism, and it’s all of television.

I read an article about Conan O’Brien’s departure from late night television after the NBC – Jay Leno debacle. It talks about how the growing abundance of cable channels and the internet have eaten away at the profit margins for networks. Network audiences are down 20 percent from five years ago, wrote reporter Joe Flint.

“Advertisers, not surprisingly, are fleeing too… Although some of the decline in ad revenue can be blamed on the economy, much of it is due to fundamental changes in the media landscape,” he explains.

Bingo. Circle that back to the big changes in Hawaii’s – and the nation’s - media market.

I'm doing what I can to evolve with the times. Knowing that the internet plays a bigger role in what today's reporters are required to do, or that there may be related positions for web administrators,  I picked up new skills to make me more attractive to potential new employers, such as building and designing my own personal website, with the help of my friend Attila Seress, at DianeAko.com. I can't control external forces but I'm trying as best as I can to rise and meet the new challenges.

Diane Ako

GRATITUDE

I'm empathetic towards the anxious staffers at the two newspapers, and sorry for whomever gets laid off. But for some reason, I’m actually counting my blessings. This whole episode makes me realize how lucky I was to have come of age in a different professional world. There were different resources, different priorities, different values.

My, how things have changed in two decades. I certainly hope the paper allows me to change with it.

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Posted in Career | 8 Comments »

Floyd Honda, photographer

By
March 5th, 2010



I recently took photos of my entire family. And for the first time, I mean everyone. I have never included the cat in a family photo before because, well, you know it's quite a hassle to get a cat out of the house and to smile for a photo. I decided it would be nice to include Ocho for once. Maybe I am crazy.

If you want a good laugh, look at these outtakes from my camera:

DSCN9867

DSCN9868

DSCN9869

More outtakes from Floyd's camera:

Look at the cat

Look at the cat

I wanted to make sure you can see the cat so I cropped just Ocho's head. I laughed so loud when I first saw this.

Copy big eyes

I asked my friend Floyd Honda to do the honors. He shot my wedding at the turn of the century, and we've kept in touch all these years. I liked the work he did at what was an outdoor event. My wedding was at the beach, and my reception was outside at an estate.

Floyd Honda

Floyd Honda

I know he can shoot studio portraits too, and I thought it would be far better to keep the cat in a small, sealed off room. So, one Sunday, we brought the chaos to Floyd.

DSCN9875

Us, plus the cat and dog. Now, the cat tolerates the dog, but she doesn't like this dog the way she liked the other dog. She was just a kitten when she met Kona, so she came to like Kona. Kona was also quite gentle. The cat was three years old when we got Inca, so the dynamic is different. She set the rules with this dog. She's the alpha pet with Inca. Inca is also crazy-hyper.

Floyd brought his assistant Judy Endo to help. Judy is excellent with children, having five of her own. Olivia warmed up to her immediately, and Olivia can be quite shy.

with Judy

with Judy

Much of the time, there was one adult assigned to one dependent. A cat, dog, or child was always running off, rolling around, looking the wrong way, or getting disheveled, and one of us had to attend to it. I was so tired after this one hour photo session.

DSCN9884

DSCN9889

Luckily, Floyd and Judy are such patient and easygoing people. If you're going to have photos with kids or animals, you really must work with a photographer who likes that. If not, you'll feel more pressure to get things on track, and you'll feel self-conscious that your kid or pet is annoying the photographer. Thankfully, they actually told us they had a great time.

I really like our photos. And we had a good time too, albeit hectic. Meow.

Copy carry

Copy ass

Copy squish

Copy squish

FLOYD'S VIDEO

Floyd is also making little videos for his clients to go along with their photo session. He says it's good for sending off in e mails, like for holiday greetings. I like what he did for us 🙂

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Archives